This I ask Thee, tell me straight, Lord

Yasna 44 from M.L. West’s translation of The Hymns of Zoroaster. I’m including at bottom a portion of West’s introductory essay to help with some of the terminology (Mindful One, Right, Good Thought, etc.).


44.1
This I ask Thee, tell me straight, Lord,
(I ask) out of reverence, how Your kind is to be revered:
Mindful One, I hope one like Thee may declare it to a friend such as me.
We (worshippers) have friendly relations to maintain with Right,
so that it will come to us with Good Thought.

44.2
This I ask Thee, tell me straight, Lord:
how can the best existence’s beginning
be furthered by the man of good will who is to take those things forward?
For it is such a man, liberal with Right, observing the outcome for all,
who by his intent is a healer of existence, an ally, Mindful One.

44.3
This I ask Thee, tell me straight, Lord:
who was the father-begetter of Right in the beginning?
Who set the path of the sun and stars?
Who is it through whom the moon waxes or wanes?
These things, Mindful One, I desire to know, and others besides.

44.4
This I ask Thee, tell me straight, Lord:
who held the earth from beneath, and the heavens
from falling down? Who the waters and plants?
Who yoked the wind’s and the clouds’ swift pair?
Who is the creator, Mindful One, of Good Thought?

44.5
This I ask Thee, tell me straight, Lord:
what skilful artificer made the light and the darkness?
What skilful artificer made sleep and waking?
Who is it through whom there are morning, noon, and eve,
that make the prudent man mindful of his endeavour?

44.6
This I ask Thee, tell me straight, Lord:
if these propositions are true,
that Piety in action confirms Right
and assigns dominion to Thee together with Good Thought,
for what (class of) people didst Thou fashion the gladdening milch cow?

44.7
This I ask Thee, tell me straight, Lord:
who fashions the piety that we esteem together with dominion?
Who by his wisdom made the son respectful to the father?
I with these questions am providently promoting Thee, Mindful One,
the ordainer of all things through Thy bounteous will.

44.8
This I ask Thee, tell me straight, Lord,
so I may take Thy instruction to heart, Mindful One,
and the words spoken by Good Thought that I obtain in consultation,
and those fitly to be apprehended through Right about existence:
to what good destinations will my soul journey?

44.9
This I ask Thee, tell me straight, Lord:
the religion of mine that I am to perfect,
how might the master of a beneficent dominion proclaim it for me
with righteous rule, a very potent follower of Thine, Mindful One,
abiding with Right and Good Thought?

44.10
This I ask Thee, tell me straight, Lord:
that religion which is the best in existence –
may it promote my flock in union with Right –
do they with pious words and deed have a true conception of it?
My insight is Thine to command at Thy discretion, Mindful One.

44.11
This I ask Thee, tell me straight, Lord:
how might piety spread to those
to whom Thy religion, Mindful One, goes forth?
I with them am the first to find my way to Thee:
all others I regard with hostile spirit.

44.12
This I ask Thee, tell me straight, Lord:
who is righteous or wrongful of those I question?
Which is my enemy, this one or that one?
‘The wrongful one who takes pleasure in attacking thy gains,
he it is, not the other, who thinks as an enemy.’

44.13
This I ask Thee, tell me straight, Lord:
how are we to drive Wrong out from ourselves
down upon those who, being full of non-compliance,
do not strive for the companionship of Right
and have not had the pleasure of consulting Good Thought?

44.14
This I ask Thee, tell me straight, Lord:
how might I give Wrong into the hands of Right
to destroy her with the prescripts of Thy law,
to deliver a crushing blow on the wrongful,
to bring pains upon them, Mindful One, and harassments?

44.15
This I ask Thee, tell me straight, Lord:
if Thou hast this power with Right, to protect me
when the two hostile armies meet
on those terms which Thou, Mindful One, wouldst uphold,
where between the two and to whom dost Thou give the victory?

44.16
This I ask Thee, tell me straight, Lord:
who is the victorious one to protect with Thy law (all) who exist –
let me be given clarity – the healer of the world? Assign his role,
and let Compliance come to him with Good Thought,
Mindful One, to whom Thou wilt soever.

44.17
This I ask Thee, tell me straight, Lord:
how am I to journey in accord with You towards my goal
of attachment to You, and make my voice effective
in working for union with health and continuing life
by means of that prescript which cleaves to Right?

44.18
This I ask Thee, tell me straight, Lord:
how am I to earn that reward with Right –
the ten mares with stallion, and the camel –
which was promised me, Mindful One, with health
and continuing life, even as Thou takest these for Thyself?

44.19
This I ask Thee, tell me straight, Lord:
he that does not give that reward to one who earns it,
the man who awards it to himself when it has been promised,
what punishment for that will strike him at the first?
For I know the one that will strike him at the last.

44.20
What, Mindful One, has the Daevas’ dominion been good –
that is what I ask – they that blaspheme for the sake of those
with whom the Karpan and the Usij subject the cow to violence
and (to all the ills) that the Kavi makes her lament to her soul?
They do not care for her so as to promote the pasture with Right.

and from his introduction:

Chief among [Zoroaster’s] Lords was Ahura Mazdā, the Lord who takes thought or pays attention, or as I have chosen to render him, the Mindful Lord.12 This is a deity identified not by an opaque conventional name, like the old gods, but by reference to his essential quality of attentiveness or intelligence. His intelligence is creative and supervisory. He created this world, or at any rate what is good in it, by means of his thought. He observes men’s moral deliberations and choices with a watchful eye, and he cannot be deceived. He communicates his wisdom through visions and utterances that Zoroaster receives; men are his messengers.

Zoroaster addresses Ahura Mazdā constantly throughout his poems. In addressing him, however, he very often uses pronouns and verbs in the second person plural, as I have made clear in the translation by distinguishing scrupulously between Thou and Ye. These plurals are not merely honorific. Their reference is made plain by two passages where the prophet speaks of ‘Mazdā and Ahuras’, in other words ‘Mazdā and the other Lords’. Mazdā, then, is the leader of a concordant group, and it is a matter of indifference whether one addresses them collectively or Mazdā individually.

Zoroaster nowhere identifies the other Ahuras explicitly, but we can assume that he is thinking of certain divine entities which he constantly associates with Mazdā and sometimes addresses in the vocative. Their names are the names of abstract qualities, mostly of an ethical nature: Right (Asa); Good Thought (Vohu manah); Piety (ārmati); Bounteous Will (Spənta manyu); Dominion (Xsathra). These are all things that human beings may have in themselves, and Zoroaster often uses the words with reference to his own or other people’s thinking and conduct, besides treating them as personified beings with an independent existence. Sometimes it is not clear which way to take them, and whether to translate them with a capital or a lower-case initial. When they are personified they can be treated like the conventional gods of poetry and represented as speaking to one another or to mankind.

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